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Confirmed case of ‘bird flu’ in wild birds in Gogebic and Ontonagon Counties

GOGEBIC & ONTONAGON COUNTIES, Mich. (WLUC) – The first cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) were confirmed on June 10, 2022, in an eagle in Gogebic County and a white pelican in Ontonagon County.

No human illness has been associated with this detection. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) is sharing this information to alert people who own or work with birds, including poultry, or hunt wild birds to the possibility of infection and the need to take recommended precautions. HPAI in birds is not a food safety concern if poultry and eggs are handled and cooked properly.

Both wild and domestic birds, including chickens, can be infected with avian influenza viruses. In Michigan, HPAI has been confirmed in 117 wild birds and mammals, with the outbreak continuing to spread throughout North America. Follow the current status of HPAI in Michigan at Michigan.gov/BirdFlu and Avian influenza updates (Michigan.gov).

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with this avian influenza detection remains low. HPAI spreads easily among birds, and while rare, can spread from birds to people.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) advises that following simple precautionary steps is fundamental to protecting both animal and human health. They recommended:

  • Preventing contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Washing your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keeping poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has also issued a recommendation for the temporary removal of bird feeders this year to help curtail the spread of HPAI in both wild and domestic birds. If people choose to continue using their bird feeders, please keep this guidance in mind:

  • Thoroughly clean bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (and rinse well) once per week. Regularly cleaning helps protect birds against other infections, including salmonella.
  • Clean up birdseed that has fallen below the feeders to discourage large numbers of birds and other wildlife from congregating in a concentrated area.
  • Don’t feed wild birds, especially waterfowl, near domestic flocks.

If exposed to an infected bird, individuals should watch for symptoms of influenza for 10 days after their last contact with the bird. Similar to seasonal influenza illness in humans, avian influenza viruses can be treated using influenza antiviral drugs. These medications work better the sooner they are given. If you suspect you may be ill, please contact WUPHD by calling 906-482-7382.

Reporting Possible Cases in Birds

For Domestic Birds

Domestic bird owners and caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, contact MDARD immediately at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

Wild Birds

If anyone notices what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations, please report these cases to the DNR by:

  • Using the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app. Choose the “Diseased Wildlife” option among the selections for “Observation Forms.”
  • Calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030. For more information on HPAI, visit MDARD at www.michigan.gov/birdflu. Learn more about WUPHD services at www.wuphd.org.

Copyright 2022 WLUC. All rights reserved.

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